Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men

An Annotated Critical Selection from The Untouchables

B. R. Ambedkar. Edited by Alex George and S. Anand. Introduction by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd.

Columbia University Press

Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men

Pub Date: January 2020

ISBN: 9780231195850

256 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: January 2020

ISBN: 9780231195843

256 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£70.00

Pub Date: January 2020

ISBN: 9780231551519

256 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men

An Annotated Critical Selection from The Untouchables

B. R. Ambedkar. Edited by Alex George and S. Anand. Introduction by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd.

Columbia University Press

One of twentieth-century India’s great polymaths, statesmen, and militant philosophers of equality, B. R. Ambedkar spent his life battling Untouchability and instigating the end of the caste system. In his 1948 book The Untouchables, he sought to trace the origin of Untouchability. Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men is an annotated selection from this work, produced in a time when the oppression of and discrimination against Dalits remains pervasive.

Ambedkar offers a deductive, and at times a speculative, history to propose a genealogy of Untouchability. He contends that modern-day Dalits are descendants of those Buddhists who were fenced out of caste society and rendered Untouchable by a resurgent Brahminism since the fourth century BCE. The Brahmins, whose Vedic cult originally involved the sacrifice of cows, adapted Buddhist ahimsa and vegetarianism to stigmatize outcaste Buddhists who were consumers of beef. The outcastes were soon relegated to the lowliest of occupations and prohibited from participation in civic life. To unearth this lost history, Ambedkar undertakes a forensic examination of a wide range of Brahminic literature. Heavily annotated with an emphasis on putting Ambedkar and recent scholarship into conversation, Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men assumes urgency as India witnesses unprecedented violence against Dalits and Muslims in the name of cow protection.
B. R. Ambedkar rewrote the history of untouchability as the practice of social outcasting and historical violence that followed the defeat of Buddhism in ancient India, and by so doing he prioritized the social suffering and ongoing stigmatization of the Dalits, the Broken Men. This extensively annotated, critical selection is potent reminder of the audaciousness of Ambedkar's method and the insurrectionary power of his writings for our political present. Anupama Rao, author of The Caste Question: Dalits and Politics in Modern India

About the Author

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) was a radical thinker, economist, jurist, philosopher, and founder of a school of Buddhism. A prolific writer, he was the chief architect of the Indian Constitution and independent India’s first law minister. In 1935, he publicly declared that though he was born a Hindu, he would not die as one. Ambedkar eventually embraced Buddhism a few months before his death in 1956.

Alex George, a philosophy graduate from Birkbeck College, London, is an editor with Navayana, an independent anticaste press.

S. Anand is the cofounder and publisher of Navayana. He is the coauthor of the graphic biography Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability (2011) and editor of the annotated edition of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste (2014).

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, best known for Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture, and Political Economy, is a political thinker. His latest book is From a Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual: My Memoirs. He lives in Hyderabad.